In Commonwealth v. Bowens, a Massachusetts appellate court considered a crack cocaine possession with intent to distribute case. The defendant was convicted of possessing a class B controlled substance with intent to distribute as well as possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute within a park or school zone.
The case arose when police officers were engaged in surveilling a particular high-crime area that was known for violence and drug dealing. An officer saw the defendant walk from the parking lot toward a playground one afternoon. The officer saw the defendant pick up a milk carton in a playground area, place something white in the carton, and then put the carton in the trash. The defendant went back the other way.
The officer went to the trash and took out the carton. Inside, he found a white tissue-covered item, inside of which were eleven rocks, each packaged individually in a baggie. The rocks were found to be crack cocaine. The officer described the defendant to other officers, and they stopped him. They found that he had $180 on him but didn’t find paraphernalia for using the crack.
The defendant was charged, and at trial, his attorney argued that the police were wrong to conclude that the defendant put the crack cocaine in the trash. The defendant claimed that he put a plastic cigar wrapper into the trash and that he hadn’t possessed or sold crack. The defendant argued there wasn’t enough evidence to show possession or intent to distribute.
The appellate court explained that the officer who saw what had happened was a 33-year veteran with 23 years of experience in the narcotics vice control bureau. He had testified he could see that the defendant was carrying a white item that was wrapped up and that it was placed inside a milk carton by the defendant. He personally retrieved the carton and found the crack inside. The appellate court found this sufficient to establish possession.
The defendant argued that the officer hadn’t examined the trash can prior to the surveillance and that there was other stuff in the trash. He also argued that once the carton was placed in the trash, the officer could no longer see it. The appellate court reasoned that the officer continued to watch the trash can where the carton was placed by the defendant until he went to retrieve the carton. Although there were alternative theoretical explanations for the drugs, the evidence would permit the jury to find guilt.
The appellate court also explained that the defendant had possessed 11 bags of crack, individually packaged, and had $180 on him when he was picked up. The area was high crime, and the defendant didn’t have paraphernalia. It was a common practice for those selling crack to hide the supply for sale. An expert had testified that the amount of crack involved and the circumstances surrounding the possession made it unlikely that it was for personal use but instead showed an intent to distribute. The lower court’s judgment was affirmed.
If you are charged in Massachusetts with a drug crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
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